The Demolition of Boston Garden: An Examination of Sports Stadia in Historic Preservation

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The closing and subsequent demolition of Boston Garden in 1995 marked the end of an era in a city steeped in history. Boston, Massachusetts is a place that proudly displays its colonial-era and 19th-century architecture interspersed amongst a 21st-century cityscape. Often overlooked, however, is the city’s iconic 20th-century structures, whose impact on the cultural identity of the city rival that of its predecessors. It was in this vein that Boston Garden saw a massive push for redevelopment, resulting in the creation of the FleetCenter, today known as TD Garden. The following discussion is an historical case study of a 20th-century Boston sporting venue that was demolished and redeveloped. The life and death of Boston Garden, former home of the Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association, among many other sports teams and functions outside of sports, provides an in-depth look into the world of historic preservation, and why specific buildings are or are not preserved. An extensive look at Boston Garden perfectly displays the complexities behind large-scale, real-estate development, and the role individual ownership groups, city officials, the current political environment, and many other factors have on the decision-making process. Boston Garden arose as the city’s preeminent sporting and exhibition hall during a time that citizens, politicians, and decision makers longed for progress and acceptance as a 20th-century American city. Boston’s seemingly never ending desire to escape its storied past carried into the 1980s and 90s as a strong push for redevelopment and redesign occurred throughout the city. This thesis follows this arc as it relates to Boston Garden, which found itself as one of the poster children of Boston’s push for modernity. The city’s push for redevelopment from the 1960s through the 1990s, which included the Massachusetts Miracle and the Big Dig, resulted in a need for economic boosters in various neighborhoods. Boston Garden was seen as an opportunity for economic vitality in the North End section of Boston. The purposeful lack of preservation as it relates to Boston Garden, therefore, poses an important question of whether or not the stadium truly deserved attention from private and public preservation sectors. The purpose of the thesis seeks to examine if the historical, cultural, and architectural significance of Boston Garden warranted preservation, which can then be applied to various other historic sports venues across not only the United States, but the globe.

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Arena; Boston Garden; Sports History; Stadium; Historic Preservation; History; American history; architecture; Economic Development
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Tomlan, Michael Andrew
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Chusid, Jeffrey M.
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City and Regional Planning
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M.A., City and Regional Planning
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Master of Arts
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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